Engineering students go off-roading
By Lindsey (Walker '10) Strength
While most of their friends spend spring break on vacation or relaxing at home, six engineering students will be hard at work. As their senior design project, they are building and designing an all-terrain vehicle to compete in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Baja Competition May 19-22. They are the first team from Geneva College ever to compete.
The SAE Baja Series originated at the University of South Carolina in 1976, and since then, it has become a premier design challenge for engineering students worldwide. Each team is given a 10-hp, Briggs & Stratton Intek Model 20 engine. Around that engine, they must design and build a prototype of a rugged, single-seat, off-road recreational vehicle that is safe and can withstand a four-hour, strenuous off-road race.
"To build it so it doesn′t break down over the four-hour race is probably the hardest challenge," says team captain and electrical engineering major Nick Bloom.
Bloom, along with mechanical engineering majors Logan Kibler, Philip Ritenour, Matt Susa, Scott Miner and Frank Caccioti, also have the option to enter their vehicle in smaller competitions, including an acceleration race, rock crawl, and hill climb. Not only will points be added up from the main race and smaller competitions, but the students will also be graded on design and cost efficiency.
As first-time competitors, Nick and his team face a significant disadvantage in the competition. They will compete against 100 other teams, most of which will have 12-25 members. And while veteran competitors can build on their schools′ past models and experience, newcomers must build their vehicles entirely from scratch. But despite the odds, the Geneva team is determined to build a vehicle that can complete the course.
"It′s a massive goal to even finish the events. I think something like 15% of cars finish the endurance race. Just to finish day one or two is incredible," Caccioti says.
In order to compete, the team must raise a total of $10,000 to cover the cost of vehicle parts and fabrication, safety equipment, registration and travel to the state of Washington. So far, the Geneva College Engineering Department has been their biggest financial backer, and the team is also seeking support from alumni and the community. Don Bolland Sr., owner of Bolland Machine in Chippewa, Pennsylvania, has generously shared materials and expertise, and the team has also received advice and encouragement from the veteran team at Grove City College.
As the first vehicle to represent Geneva in the SAE Baja Series, the students have named their vehicle the GT-1. Regardless of the outcome of this year′s competition, they know their efforts could pave the way for the GT-2, GT-3 and on. Their hope is that the competition will become a tradition of the engineering department and that future teams will modify the vehicle and build on the work they have done.
"At the beginning of last semester, I was thinking it would be a miracle if we could get a running car. These guys continue to surprise me," says Dr. David Che, the team′s advisor.
Will next year′s SAE Baja Series feature the GT-2? The team will find out in May when they travel to Washington to compete. For now, they hope to have the GT-1 completed by April 17 to debut at Founder′s Day weekend.
The team is still working hard to raise funds. If you would like to support them financially, please contact Nick Bloom at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-701-0477.
To view more photos of the team, click here.